NJ Teachers’ Lounge is excited to continue its Teachers of New Jersey series in 2018. This editorial series is curated by photojournalist, Gregory Andrus, creator of the social media series, Portraits of the Jersey Shore. These stories highlight the joys, struggles, and personal reflections that surround being a teacher.

“God opened a door for me to teach in Trenton, and it was something I didn’t see coming, didn’t anticipate, but I got the call and I got the job last September. I teach 11th grade English.”

“I am here now to influence these young, at-risk kids. They are tough, but good kids. I am learning how to see each kid individually. I teach them as a class, but I am learning how to see them each as their own unique person with their own set of skills and their own set of problems they face. “

“I have to prepare my heart each day and be ready for the challenges that are presented to me when I go to work to teach. You have kids with abusive backgrounds, many facing sexual, physical, and emotional abuse… You have kids where they are the ones who are the adults in the family, because their mom and dad are out getting high. You have kids who are labeled and told they cannot achieve anything in life, so they come to class with that attitude, and they always act like they can’t achieve anything. They have no expectations of themselves. So I come alongside them and encourage them. I try to light a spark in them. It has been tough for a lot of these kids who have been classified, but I tell them, ‘I know you can do this.’”

“At first it was a challenge. They tried me. They wanted to see what I was about, so they pushed me. I maintained my patience knowing that they were just testing. I would just pray every day for God’s grace. I know that I am there to not just teach them, but to be an example to them, to minister to them. So it is important for me to keep an even keel. I am firm, but gentle. I always remember: they are kids. The way I approach them is vital.” 

“I am real with them. I understand them. Like the kid who kept coming to my class high. I finally had to tell him, ‘I know you are high. You can’t keep coming to my class that way, if you keep getting high, because you’re not going to learn anything in that state of mind.’ He is really bright, but he keeps being drawn in a bad direction, and I am trying to keep him from going down a bad road. He has turned it around since I have talked to him.” 

“The kids crave for an adult to be authentic with them, and they are starting to warm up to me The first two marking periods were tough, but since Christmas, the kids have been starting to trust me more, and I can see that I am starting to make a difference in the classroom. Making that connector with the students is what keeps me going every single day.”

This was a great story about a Trenton area teacher — if you know any teachers who should be featured in this column, please let know.

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